Allison Jackson came to Washington 15 years ago to intern at the White House but—after that and a several-year stint on the Hill—decided to put her organizational expertise (have you ever managed a senator’s schedule?) to work in a different field: event planning. She started Pineapple Productions in 2000 and does about 20 weddings a year. Allison specializes in event planning at private estates and historic properties, but she hasn’t moved totally away from the Hill—her company often does soirees for members of Congress.
Thank you all so much for your questions. I had a lot of fun participating in this on line chat. Best wishes to everyone planning a wedding — it's such a special and memorable time. And as someone who has been married for over twelve years, I can tell you your wedding day will be just the start of many more wonderful memories to come!
Allison Jackson, Pineapple Productions
That's all the time Allison has for us today. We have one final wedding chat taking place next Thursday, January 31. Submit any questions you have here. For the full archives of wedding chats, click here.
It’s also worth considering asking your floral designer about lighting elements. Many floral designers like to incorporate relatively reasonably priced lighting components in their proposals. For example, Jack Lucky Floral Design likes to suggest copper torches and hanging votives in trees. The Ociana Group loves to recommend various lanterns and light fixtures – floor lanterns, hanging lanterns from shepherd’s hooks and even vintage chandeliers to hang from tent ceilings.
You will definitely help yourself out by keeping the guest count around 50-80 people. You may want to target some of your favorite casual restaurants as a wedding reception location. Having a wedding in a restaurant can allow for a fun, unique and intimate celebration. Just be sure to factor in tip and tax into your food and beverage budget!
Hire a DJ versus a band for music, and forget about flowers for decorating tables. Restaurants usually provide their own décor and lighting. If you are willing to use the existing restaurant décor, you could save a lot of money.
You also may want to hire a “photographer in training” or even a photography student to take pictures at your wedding. Many photographers are looking to get into the wedding industry and are desperate for experience of any kind. Good sources for photographers in training might be art schools as well as some of the more established photo studios. Understand that a photography student will not be able to offer you the same level of service as a principal photographer, but if you can find someone who is enthusiastic and hard working, this could be a worthwhile way to reduce photography costs considerably.
My advice is do whatever you can do to stick to your budget – even if it means making some sacrifices and thinking outside the box. No one should go into debt planning a wedding.
I’m a little bit of a traditionalist and love white bouquets for brides. Flowers come in such a spectrum of whites and creams, and the options will really depend on what time of year you are getting married. I absolutely love whites and creams with silver – especially antique silver. You could have your florist wrap your bouquet with white or cream satin ribbon and secure it with vintage silver buttons or accent it with an old piece of silver jewelry from your family. That could even qualify as your “something old” for the wedding day!
Also, keep in mind that there are some calla lilies and gerbera daisies with black centers. Carrying a clutch of those callas with the dark centers would be very dramatic, sophisticated and kind of art deco in feel.
I am so happy to hear that you are thinking about your venue and how it relates to your budget. Because venues in Washington vary so dramatically in price, I don’t think a ratio of spending is the best way to think about budget. I would first identify what your budget is, and then figure out which venue options are available on your wedding date.
The next and most important step is to be aware of any other fixed costs associated with having an event at your venue of choice. For example, some venues come with exclusive or required vendor lists. You need to be aware of the pricing of these exclusive or required vendors before moving forward with your venue. Set pricing of exclusive or required vendors could take you out of your budget.
Also, some venues require tenting. You need to understand the cost of any tent needs, and this very often relates to equipment beyond the actual tent structure. Tents typically require lighting, and sometimes they require flooring. Sometimes a generator is necessary. Be sure you are aware of any tenting requirements and receive estimates before committing to a venue.
Finally, try to assess any logistical challenges associated with your venue of choice that could lead to additional spending. For example, is valet parking necessary? Do you need to consider shuttle transportation for guests? Will vendors need extra set up time because loading into the space is difficult?
Before booking a venue, it is important to receive estimates for any fixed costs associated with the venue and ensure that your budget can absorb these costs and still handle other typical wedding expenditures.
Many brides and grooms do like the idea of sharing a small gift or favor with their wedding guests. However, I cannot recommend spending very much money on these gifts. While on the job, I observe so many of these gifts being left behind at the reception site. It sometimes seems like a little bit of a waste.
It is though extremely important to let your guests know how much it means to you that they were part of your celebration. For one client, we hung beautiful calligraphed cards on the rearview mirrors of guest vehicles. When guests retrieved their cars at the end of the reception, they were sent off with a very sweet and thoughtful personalized message from the bride and groom. It wasn't expensive, but it was a very meaningful way for the bride and groom to express their appreciation to their guests. And there wasn't a way this keepsake was going to get left behind at the reception site!
Also, edible gifts are always appreciated by guests. One current client is considering sending her guests off with packages filled with sliders, fries and mini milkshakes — a fun late night snack for the shuttle bus ride home.
Design Cuisine is a fabulous caterer that often recommends their amazing chocolate truffle lollipops. I like these very much because they are easy to pass out to guests at the end of the evening. You can make them even more special by affixing a personal thank you message to the lollipop stick.
I can't tell you how often I am asked this question. This is a concern for many brides and grooms who would prefer not to have children at their wedding receptions.
The most polite way to send the message that you are planning an adult only reception is by addressing your invitations in a way that signals only the parents are invited. Traditionally the outer envelope of the invitation would be addressed to the parents of the household. The inner envelope is the envelope that specifies which members of the household are invited. If you aren't inviting children, then the inner envelope would only be addressed to the parents. If you aren't using inner envelopes, just address the outer envelope to the parents.
Even if you are specific in the addressing of your invitations, you might very well have guests contact you and ask if they can bring their children. In that case, you should just politely say that you are planning an adult only reception. You should also be sensitive to guests who are parents by offering to find qualified professional babysitters in the DC area. I like to recommend White House Nannies to clients who need professional babysitters for out of town guests.
Fortunately there are wonderful bridal boutiques in the DC area that can help you out. One of my favorites is Hitched in Georgetown. Hitched carries a line called Simple Silhouettes that features many bridesmaids dress designs in the same fabric. Simple Silhouettes also allows you to customize the looks of the dresses with interesting details.
Also, Promise for the Savvy Bride in Bethesda offers many wonderful and well priced lines for bridesmaids. I really like Coren Moore for their choice of colors, fabrics and flattering styles.
This is a really great question! The answer in my opinion is probably. Square and rectangular tables in general take up more space, which means planning for a larger reception area than if you used all round tables. For a tented wedding reception, this could mean a larger tent and more tent equipment which translates into more spending.
Also, round tables tend to be able to fit more guests at each table. You can reduce your number of tables by seating your guests at all round tables. Using square and rectangular tables will probably mean needing more tables, which means more table linens, more floral arrangements and more money spent.
Square tables also have more space in the center than round tables. Some floral designers will tell you a larger and more substantial arrangement is needed for a square table. And while rectangular tables can be narrower, if you are interested in design, you might find yourself wanting to create "tablescapes" down the center of these tables. The biggest misconception by my clients is that creating "tablescapes" is less expensive than high floral arrangements because less flowers are used. That might be the case; however, "tablescapes" usually involve more containers, more specialty items and more labor to create. All of that can translate into higher costs for floral design for rectangular tables.
That said, I think it is absolutely wonderful to consider a mix of round, square and rectangular tables. If you have the space available at your reception site, try to budget for this. The mix of tables is such an interesting visual. It creates a more unique and custom look without appearing over the top.
Yes, this does happen from time to time. Generally you will have some people fail to make it to the wedding for whatever reason, and you might very well have some show that you haven't counted on. But don't despair! There is an easy solution if this happens. Wedding coordinators and caterers work together behind the scenes to address any problems like this. If it's just a matter of a few guest changes, seating arrangements can be adjusted quickly and without guests being aware of the situation.
I've had a few clients know in advance that they might have many extra guests show without responding. In those cases we made sure to plan for a few extra tables for "overflow" guests. I wouldn't recommend this to every client, but if you feel you might fall into the category of needing some overflow space, be sure your floor plan will be able to accomodate a few extra tables.
It sounds like you have the fortunate dilemma of too many good options! I am not surprised that you have found several wonderful photographers in Washington. DC seems to be an area where many experienced and talented photographers work and settle.
One thing you may want to explore is how the photographers you are considering handle the proofing process and album design. I notice a tremendous variation in the way photographers present proofs and ultimately design their albums. Be sure you understand the proofing process and the album style options and design process before making a final decision.
Also, it really is important that you establish some personal connection with your photographer. Make sure you like your photographer and that he or she makes you feel comfortable. If you aren't able to feel comfortable or be yourself in front of your photographer, that really can come across in your pictures.